I want to be clear from the outset that everything contained herein is true. My name is Kenneth James Roland, Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at Southern Michigan University and my actions lead to the death of Kelsey Davidson.
On the night--
He looks up at me. “What the hell is this?”
“You barge into my office, you shove this letter in my face, and you—”
I pull the gun out of my coat. “Read.”
His mouth fumbles for words. “L-L-Look, wh-whatever you…”
I cock the hammer. “I won’t tell you again.”
He pulls his eyes off me.
On the evening of December sixth, I had a formal meeting with Kelsey to discuss her final project, a short story entitled, “Man About Town.” We met in my office, I read through her story, gave her feedback, said she needed to work on her ending, and offered to continue the conversation at my house. I stated I hadn’t eaten all day and asked if she would like to join me. She accepted, thinking it was just about her assignment.
“Look, I don’t know what she told you, but—”
“She didn’t tell me anything. I had to read it in her suicide note.”
His lips tremble. “You—”
I pull the trigger.
The bullet flies past his ear and strikes the diploma hanging on the wall behind him. The glass spiderwebs. Shards erupt and fall. Roland screams, “Please! Stop!”
“She said the same thing to you, didn’t she?”
Tears flood the banks of his eyes.
I cock the hammer again. “Continue, Professor.”
His tongue runs over his quivering bottom lip, and he reads…
I made pasta and poured glasses of wine. Admittedly, we had more wine than pasta. Although Kelsey certainly had her share of wine before, something about the wine was unreasonably strong, she noticed, but couldn’t…
He takes a breath.
But couldn’t make out why exactly. She passed out soon after.
She awoke hours later in my bed and saw me beside her.
The tears spill over.
Kelsey Davidson didn’t tell anyone about what happened. She figured no one would believe a respected professor and bestselling author could do such a thing. She carried the shame with her until it crushed her.
On the morning of February fifth, Kelsey took the gun now pointed at me, stuck it in her mouth and pulled…
Pulled the trigger.
By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.
He starts to hyperventilate and says please as if the word itself would go rotten inside his mouth if he didn’t get it out into the open air as much as possible.
I grab the letter.
“The person who killed me is Joannie Davidson, Kelsey’s mother. On this desk, beside this letter you will find Kelsey’s suicide note and the .38 caliber handgun Kelsey bought at a sporting goods store a few days before she killed herself. Joannie will be at St. Paul’s Cemetery at Kelsey’s graveside waiting to be taken into custody. She will not fight. She will not argue. She will go peacefully, unlike Dr. Roland.”
I don’t give him a chance.
The second bullet hits him just below the left eye socket. Blood coats his diploma. I empty the cylinder into his chest.
I set the gun on the desk along with the letter. I pull Kelsey’s note out of my coat pocket and set it beside the gun.
I leave Roland’s office. A janitor shuffles around the corner and asks, “You hear a few pops, like some loud noises?”
“Yeah,” I say.
I walk out of the building to my car and drive to St. Paul’s. It’s after five. The sun is just about gone, and the horizon looks like spilt merlot dousing a burning ember.
I park and walk to Kelsey’s grave. I sit on the dead grass beside the stone, and I wait, reading the two dates over and over.
Sirens wail in the distance, the sun is almost gone, and I begin to put the finishing touches on my ending as well.
About the author:
Mike McHone was the 2020 recipient of the High Holton Award from the Mystery Writers of America's Midwest Chapter and was recently placed on Ellery Queen's Readers Poll in the same year for his short story "A Drive-by on Chalmers Road?" His work has appeared in Ellery Queen, Mystery Tribune, Mystery Weekly, Playboy, the AV Club, and in the first issue of Guilty Crime Story Magazine. He lives in Detroit.
No place is safe. People have been shot at work, in schools, at the supermarket. Not too long ago, eleven people were shot to death at a synagogue in my hometown. Last week, I heard about some dude who got shot on a golf course, a place that’s even more sacred than a church for middle-aged white guys like me.
I never thought I’d need a gun.
I’ve never been robbed, never had anyone break into my house or try to jack my car. I’ve never been mugged.
The only time I’ve been a victim of a crime was when a fake “Police Widows and Orphans” fund scammed me out of a hundred dollars.
That’s not counting the mistake I made during the last presidential election when I didn’t see the pre-checked box that turned my one-time contribution into a recurring one. Thank God for overdraft protection.
Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve always felt safe — at least until these mass shootings started happening around here.
I told you about the one at the synagogue. Before that, some nutcase got in his car and went on a rampage on the interstate, shooting at anyone whose face was darker than a paper bag—blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and some old Jewish lady with a suntan. Then there was that forty-something incel who shot and killed four women at a health and fitness club a few miles from my home.
Sure I’m white and male, but who knows? Next time they might even come for me. Like I said, no place’s safe, and it sure seems like everybody’s packin.’
Heck, one of the guys in my foursome keeps a piece in his golf bag.
I didn’t want to be the only person left in America who didn’t own a gun. I figured I better get with the program.
I got myself a weapon. Couple of ‘em. Got a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun for home defense and a striker-fired 9mm to take to the range, where I practice with it every week.
Because I wanted to be a responsible gun owner, I also got myself some trigger locks and a gun case. I kept all my guns inside it, except my carry piece, a nice, discreet, little magnum revolver.
I had it with me that fateful day, that day every good guy with a gun prepares for but hopes and prays will never come.
I was sitting in the parking lot of our local Wal-Mart checking my phone for messages. I heard a noise and looked up. Some dude, a young white guy, was standing behind the open trunk of the vehicle in front of mine. I watched him pull out a bulletproof vest and strap it on.
Alarm bells started going off in my head.
They got even louder when I saw the guy take out a magazine and begin to load it. I could hear him clicking the rounds in place. When he was done loading the magazine, he snapped it into an AR-15.
I sucked in my breath and ducked my head before he could turn around, banging my left shoulder on the steering wheel and dropping my phone. It skittered under my seat. I fumbled for it. I wanted to call 911, but I couldn’t find it.
I wasn’t sure what to do.
The seconds ticked while I hunkered down in the cab of my pickup. Slowly, very cautiously, I raised my head up and peeked out over the steering wheel.
The guy still had his back to me. I saw him raise his rifle, take the safety off, and aim it at some poor schmuck walking across the lot.
His weapon clattered as he fired.
I heard people scream.
Amid the din, I opened the door of my pickup and inched out of my cab, dropping to my knees on the pavement and looking back inside the truck for my phone.
It was pinned against a stereo amp under the passenger seat. I stretched to reach it, but it was just beyond my grasp.
Through the crack in the open door, I saw the man sight his rifle again.
I don’t know what possessed me at that moment. I wasn’t planning on being a hero. I just knew I had to act. While the dude was aiming at his next target, I took out my revolver and pointed it at him. I drew a bead on the back of his head and squeezed the trigger. Five times. Until I had expended every round.
I didn’t hear him drop, but when I looked again, he was lying prone on the ground.
I walked over to him, and kicked him in the ribs. He didn’t grunt or move. I rolled him over and checked for a pulse and when I didn’t find one, I pried the weapon from his cold, dead hands.
I was cradling the AR in my arms like it was a baby when a police officer came toward me. He was holding his department-issued firearm out in front of him with one hand on the grip and the other resting below it the way they do in the movies. In other words, he was holding it all wrong. I wanted to tell him to move his support hand forward the way I was taught.
He didn’t seem to know what he was doing.
Fortunately for him, I already neutralized the bad guy.
I was waiting for him to thank me when he pointed his firearm at me.
“Whoa fella,” I said.
I put the AR down and threw up my hands and told the officer not to shoot.
He didn’t listen.
About the author:
Michael Zimecki is the author of a novel, DEATH SENTENCES, published by Crime Wave Press. His work has appeared in Close To The Bone Magazine, The Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine, and Noir Nation, among other publications.